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Thread: Planted Tropheus Tank - Doomed from the start?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    San Diego, California

    Planted Tropheus Tank - Doomed from the start?

    Amano’s Natural Aquarium World entices from the coffee table, my bare tropheus tank mocks me in my man cave, and abandoned planted tank gizmos piteously whine from their banishment in the garage.

    Three years have dulled the frustration, so I subscribed here to learn the good stuff, to relish an oasis free from the windbags and posers lurking elsewhere. (That alone is worth the 12 bucks). Urban legends got me in trouble before, so this time I’ll move more slowly with consistent purpose to meet the challenge: create a beautiful planted tank.

    My wife and I have degrees in alchemy and have often been troubled by conventional wisdom. “Why?”, my wife would ask. “I dunno”, I would reply. “Several Thousand Postings says it works for him”. Not an answer, but it’s all I got. So, as my tank became my sewer, my wife thinks I don’t got much.

    She's picky about what’s in her house and as she also holds a black belt in ikebana from the Sogetsu, she insists on doing all the cleaning and ‘scaping. My job is just to keep the plants growing, the algae at bay, and the water odor-free. Oh, and I am to haul the water. In that, at least, I have met her standards.

    Current Situation : Minimal algae and diatoms

    • Tap – GH 15, KH 6, pH 8.2, NO3 & P04 zero, K 4.5 ppm. Water company data.
    • Tank – KH 10, pH 7.9-8.1, NO3 15-20, P04 0.8-1.0, K 20-30. Calibrated LaMotte kits.
    • Lighting - 0.8 wpg, 6700nm; expandable to 1.6 wpg.
    • Substrate - CaribSea African Cichlid Mix (aragonite) and slate rocks
    • Fish Food - 11g per week of NLS Cichlid Formula (34% protein)
    • Water Changes - 50% every two weeks, SeaChem Tanganyika Buffer as needed for pH


    • Healthy, breeding tropheus
    • Healthy epiphytes (anubias, Java fern, bolbitis; willow, flame, & Taiwan mosses)
    • 50% WC every two weeks (Installed a daily water change / top off / dosing system on 4/1/2011)
    • Clear water, minimal algae, and minimal detritus
    • Infrequent testing

    How I Propose to Get There
    • 1.6 wpg, 6700K, compact fluorescents
    • Carbon – Low bps CO2 injection (off at lights out), plus Excel at 1X dose.
    • NPK – EI, 1/3X per week (determined right away that 11g of food per week results in plenty of NO3 and PO4; still dose K as K2SO4)
    • Trace – DIY TPN
    • Stock with stem plants until epiphytes take off (hornwort & Brazilian pennywort) (Never used any stem plants - no issue)
    • 50% WC’s and pruning every week, until epiphytes are established


    • Tropheus shredding the plants (especially the bolbitis) (Actually bolbitis did the best. All mosses were clipped by the fish to the nubs)
    • Too much NO3 harms the fish (EI max 20 ppm + fish poop max 20 ppm = 40 ppm) (Apparently no issue)
    • CO2 reduces pH and damages fish (old boys continue to harp about ideal pH for species) (Apparently no issue)
    • pH / KH / GH too high for bolbitis (TPT claims pH 7.2 max) (pH 7.0 to 8.3, no issue.)
    • CO2 dissolves aragonite, raising KH & GH (scary intimations from x-reef keepers) (GH and KH did increase slowly, but were ameliorated by frequent WC's)
    • 1.6 wpg not enough for bolbitis (how low can you go?) (Plenty of light)

    Plan to Ameliorate

    • Pennywort is my canary for nutrients and is the most likely snack for tropheus. (not used)
    • The hornwort ought to ensure that I’ll have at least some NO3 uptake. (not used)
    • Until epiphytes are established, I will change 50% of the water every week.
    • pH changes from CO2 are natural; CO2 partial pressure is more relevant to fish toxicity.
    • My 9X powerhead and 2.5X wet/dry canister filter ought to provide ample O2.

    Since my mind has been poisoned by urban legend / conventional wisdom / old wives’ tales / yada yada, I don’t know if I am inherently making assumptions about my tank that will doom me from the get go. If so, please be kind to me and let me know before I once again make a fool of myself. Oh, and any less dramatic help would be greatly appreciated too. Thanks in advance for your help!
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 04-01-2011 at 03:08 PM. Reason: 4/1/2011 update
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Surprise, AZ

    Smile Bike Racks?


    It sounds as though you have given quite a bit of thought to this and your plan seems reasonable.

    I have no experience with Tropheus moorii Ilangi and little experience with Lake Tanganyika any things… My African Cichlids come from 220 miles (350 km) southeast of yours.

    Have you considered plants of Lake Tanganyika?

    Perhaps Riccia fluitans, Crystalwort or Ceratopteris cornuta would be good for starters. I have had good success with Ceratopteris cornuta, it is a fast grower sucks up a lot of Nitrates, both of these are floating plants, but the R. fluitans can be tied down and C. cornuta can be planted.

    Sorry, I have more but it will have to wait for tomorrow…

    Perhaps one of the smart folk will step in.

    The first sign we don't know what we are doing is an obsession with numbers. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Disclaimer: I am not trying to make you mad, it is just what I am, an evil plant monster, 'nuf said.

    • I believe the information I am giving is sound, I am not a veterinarian, professional chemist or particularly bright and certainly not a "Guru.".
    • I assume you are of legal age, competent and it is legal for you to acquire, possess and use any materials or perform any action in your in your jurisdiction.
    • When in doubt "don't."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    San Diego, California
    I have thought about this tank quite a bit, but I will always not know what I don't know.

    Riccia fluitans (aka crystalwort) is a contender, but I am concerned about its need for light if secured submerged and then also its liklihood of clogging the overflow box if floating. (Sorry, I didn't mention in my post that I feed my canisters through an internal 6"x6" overflow box.)

    I am familiar with C. thalictroides' use submerged, but I hadn't considered the other more-commonly-used-floating C. coruta and its kissing cousin, C. pteriodes. Thank you for that. I can't find any of the former to buy (which I think I would prefer because of its broader leaves), but I will add the latter to my plant order. Nutrient-sucking C. pteriodes will join hornwort and pennywort in being cast to the tropheus!
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 01-30-2011 at 02:01 AM.
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

  4. #4
    I saw a nice Troph tank usign Anubias, as logn as they are fed, etc, and the plants are done right, this can work. You have limited plant species options.

    Vals also work.

    Tom Barr

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Antwerp, Belgium
    I'm not an expert but personally I wouldn't increase lighting. 1.6 WPG is already more than enough imo, especially since you have a lot of slow growing plants/plants that do not require much lighting. My bolbitis did well with less than 1 WPG. Lowering your lighting will also decrease the need for CO2.

    As for as I know, high levels of NO3 won't harm fish, 40ppm isn't too much either (I have 30-40ppm). How do you know your fish produce 20ppm? Not sure about the lower Ph and the fish ...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    San Diego, California
    Hi Gilles:

    Yes, each of two bulbs gives 0.8 wpg, so I have an option. There's about 24" to the gravel and all plants will be on rocks higher than that. I don't have any equipment to measure actual light, so I'm waving my hands a little here.

    I believe that <30 ppm NO3 is harmless to fish for sure; I've measured roughly 20 ppm difference between two week water changes - with no plants. I used a calibrated LaMotte kit, but still don't have 100% confidence in the number's accuracy. That's why I'm going EI....

    I am completely on board with the belief that pH changes due only to increases in CO2 are harmless to fish. It's CO2's toxicity at higher partial pressures that is relevant. But I'm going to stay at 0.5 bps - above pH 7.8 - for the time being and non-limit carbon with Excel. I will slowly increase to maybe 1 bps. My tank at lights out (without plants) is at pH 8.3 with a KH of 10.
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 02-02-2011 at 02:35 PM. Reason: grammar
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

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